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squirrely group riding(5 posts)

squirrely group ridingclar
Jun 27, 2001 5:40 AM
hey all-

I was riding with a pretty fast group last night, I'm new to this kinda thing but as an experienced mtn biker I'm generally strong enough to hang... but I tend to drift a little on the road bike.

I know its a problem but its something I work on when I ride with the group (generally once a week), but last night a few guys made some comments about me being squirrely and that I 'gotta ride a straight line' Basically my question is: is it OK for me to continue to ride w/ these guys as my skills improve ? Should I just ignore those guys ? Or am I endangering others with my poor road bike skills ? I feel the only way I gonna improve my skills is to ride with the group so....

Squirrely group riding answersCima Coppi
Jun 27, 2001 7:52 AM
There are two ways to improve on riding a straight line. First, continue riding with the group, and you'll become accustomed to riding close and straight. Second, get a set of rollers, like Kreitlers; the kind where the front wheel is on a drum that is belt driven from the rear drums. This will help greatly with riding a straight line.

Don't let the comments of the group get you down. They are watching out for themselves and you, but once you get the hang of group riding, they'll appreciate your contribution to ride.

Good luck!!

Yes - hang in thererollo tommassi
Jun 27, 2001 8:55 AM
Your riding partners, at one time, were newbies too, and a straight line is something that can be taken for granted. Thank them for their patience, and I hope they will be patient with you. As Cima says, they definitely will appreciate you as you pull at the front (or, maybe rue the day they 'taught you the ropes' if you drop them ;)!

It may help for you to do some 'quality' time with just 2 other people who are skilled riders - the group ride is not necessarily the best place for good 'line' work. Practice what we call 'the wedge', three abreast, you in the middle, moderate pace. Start off with a good space on either side of you, then the two outside riders gently ride closer to you. Eventually you can be knuckle to knuckle, it's not necessary. Keep in mind that the "line" is a relative thing - relative to the other riders, and that you adjusting to them is a gentle thing, no big swerves or wheel turning.

I find it hard to describe to people who to "be" in a group - the ebb and flow, anticipating changes in tempo, being on the right wheel.

Above all, relax and learn. "Be the line".....
some ideaslonefrontranger
Jun 27, 2001 10:36 AM
I'd keep doing group rides, and if they continue to complain about you being squirrelly, ask if it's okay to hang towards the back until you are smooth enough to take your own pulls. This makes things smoother for them, and you'll be able to learn at your own pace. You'll have to be more aware of gaps that form, etc. so that you don't get dropped, but it's a solution that will work for the interim. If you're like most MTB riders I know, you probably have enough horsepower to hang off the back and still stay with the group.

Find guys to ride with who don't mind that you're learning. I was taught that a roadie with decent skills should be able to "soak up" any mistakes made by a newbee and should be happy to showcase THEIR skills instead of whining about others'. This doesn't mean they won't correct you, but *constructive* commentary goes under the topic of ambassadorship, which any number of roadies I've ridden with are fairly poor at. As a teacher, I'm perfectly willing to paceline partner or sit on the wheel of the group squirrel, since I'm an OK bike handler, I can live with it, and I'd rather see the new guys improve than disappear from the rides altogether. Roadies can be pretty snobby and some are downright d!ckheads.

I've done a fair bit of coaching in the past, and have worked with MTB riders up to semi-pro level who've done the road crossover, either for training or to do some road racing. Their reflexes amaze me, but most of them do tend to be kind of jittery in the beginning. I started out as a roadie, and have control / fear / handling issues on the MTB - you would absolutely howl at the things I tend to run through rather than ride, so it all balances out. Things to remember on a road bike:

1) Your front shock and steering dampening is now in your elbows & shoulders. Keep the elbows bent and shoulders loose to dampen the road vibration and smooth out your steering, so the front of the bike won't feel so jumpy. Road bikes handle way, way quicker than any MTB, and I'd bet a lot of what your boys are complaining about is just your adjustment to this factor.

2) You steer a road bike with your lower body, not your upper body & body english like you do an MTB. The analogy / visualization I've used with students is to pretend you're driving at speed on the interstate - make smooth long moves, not tight jumpy ones. Don't bunny-hop holes or swerve sharply to avoid them - instead, look far down the road, anticipate your line, and make small, smooth corrections to avoid hazards. This is tough when you're in a group that doesn't call stuff out, but learn to use "soft focus" (i.e. don't get hypnotized by the brake calipers in front of you) to see around the riders in front of you. Ride a half-wheel behind and a few inches off to the side of the guy in front of you if this helps - don't overlap wheels or snug right up on his butt, as it kills your reaction time. Being in a good tight peloton is a weird, almost telepathic zen experience, like being inside a school of fish, but it takes a while to get there. For now, leave yourself some margin for error.

3) Cornering on a road bike is different than on trails - your goal is to lean the bike over more and keep your upper body in line with the bike. Again, the key is to use the lower body, not upper. Counterweight a tight or fast turn by sliding your outside hipbone off the saddle and pushing with the inside hand. You don't swing your shoulders / torso outside the arc to steer like you have to on tight singletrack to keep your front wheel from washing. Trust those skinny tires, you wouldn't believe the amount of grip you have.

Good luck, and hope you enjoy riding the road!
Thanks all(nm)clar
Jun 28, 2001 8:55 AM